Iron Rangers helping other Iron Rangers

Cancer survivors slowly walk together for the ceremonial first lap of the 2018 Sand Lake Shuffle. The annual event raises thousands of dollars each year to help cancer patients in the local area.

BRITT — Jen Krummi, of Iron Junction, occasionally has difficulty forming the right words. She struggles cognitively, “like having a learning disability.” She experiences short-term memory loss.

Ultimately, it’s a small price to pay for still being alive, she says. “It’s a good day when you are on this side of the ground.”

Unfortunately, some individuals once so involved in previous Sand Lake Shuffles have been taken by cancer, said the 53-year-old, whose memory of her own battle with the terrible disease is quite vivid.

It’s also a good day when a Ranger can help other Rangers, Krummi said.

That’s what she and others — who have also been touched by cancer — will do Aug. 2 at the 28th annual Sand Lake Shuffle at Voyageurs Sand Lake Resort at the Britt Bypass.

“This is very important to me,” said the metastatic breast cancer survivor, who is volunteering for a second year at the event that raises money to help area cancer families.

“All the money stays local,” she noted. “All the money goes to Iron Range families.”

Proceeds will be donated to Care Partners, a nonprofit, volunteer organization, based in Eveleth, that pays for needs not covered by insurance, including travel expenses, respite care, medication co-payments and groceries.

Last year’s Shuffle made it possible to donate more than $35,000 to the cause, said Bonnie Altobelli, committee member and breast cancer survivor.

Teams, which can be one person or many, are still being sought for this year’s walk, she said.

Luminaries are also currently on sale for $5 at the Mesabi Daily News office in Virginia. The white paper bags, which hold candles to illuminate the pathway at the Shuffle, can be decorated in memory of a loved one lost to cancer or to honor a survivor.

More than 300 have been sold so far, surpassing the 300 purchased last year, Altobelli said. Luminaries will also be for sale at the event, with a station set up for adorning them.

The Shuffle spaghetti feed, complete with meatballs, garlic bread, and coleslaw, is set for 4 to 7 p.m. Cost is $7. Some of the food was donated by a local family “in memory of their father, Jerry Benz,” Altobelli said.

The meal will be followed by a brief ceremony, then the survivors lap and walk. There will also be drawings, raffles and a split-the-pot.

WTBX-FM radio of Hibbing will have a live remote broadcast, with giveaways, from 6 to 8 p.m.

“We will have a huge raffle table,” Altobelli said. “Businesses have been very generous for the silent auction.”

Sand Lake Shuffle sweatshirts, which were a “big sell-out” last year, will be available in several colors, she said. The fundraiser has a new logo, with an awareness ribbon as the “A” in “Sand” and the “K” replaced with a depiction of the state of Minnesota.

Deb Bachel, of Kinney, who is battling Stage 4 endometrial cancer, is set to speak for the second consecutive year at the Shuffle. Bachel lost her 18-year-old daughter, Kelly, to brain cancer in 1999, and her 54-year-old son-in-law, Bobby Kintner, to colon cancer in 2017.

Krummi said she is not sure if she will walk the survivor’s lap, which is led by a bagpiper. It may just be too emotional.

But it’s important, she said, for participants to see all the people who have survived.

There is a staggering prevalence of cancer in the world today, she said, relaying how during oncology appointments she is overwhelmed by the “revolving door” of patients.

“You think (cancer) doesn’t pertain to you, and then all of a sudden it pertains to you,” said Krummi, who was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, a fancy term for breast cancer, at age 49 in 2015.

Fifteen teams are currently registered, Altobelli said, noting that only 10 teams participated last year. But some of those groups are quite large and dedicated to the cause.

“Rolly’s Rangers I and Rolly’s Rangers II will return,” she said. “Team leaders Shirley Savela and Dorothy Limanen have assembled a combined total of 34 team members.” Last year, Rolly’s Rangers, alone, raised more than $10,000.

Savela “has also been busy all winter folding luminary bags and mailing out letters of encouragement,” Altobelli said.

Campsites are available for those staying overnight, and coolers are allowed at the event. In the past, Shufflers have walked all night long along the luminary-lit pathway, Krummi said. A hot dog barbecue will be held later in the evening.

An Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency shuttle bus will also be available to transport participants from the Sand Lake storage parking lot to the resort.

“There’s a lot of work leading into (the Shuffle),” Krummi said. “They are always looking for volunteers.” And the board is seeking members.

Krummi will be among 31 volunteers from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota’s Virginia claims center who will assist this year. Other groups include a Boy Scouts troop that will help with luminaries and the Eveleth-Gilbert football team, which will work on set-up.

The Shuffle, sponsored by the MDN and Manney’s Shopper, is supported this year by corporate sponsorships. “Platinum” sponsors, giving $1,000 or more, are Lundgren Motors of Eveleth and Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

“There’s great community support” for the Shuffle, Krummi said. “People see the direct impact on the community.”

Currently on the Care Partners board, Krummi was assisted by the organization during her cancer journey. It eased her mind at a time when she was so sick and felt like a financial burden to her husband and three children, she said.

After completing chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer in December 2016, Krummi learned it had metastasized to the lateral ventricle of her brain. She underwent a Gamma Knife procedure, a type of radiation surgery, in Minneapolis.

“I’ve been in remission since January 2017,” when she received “a clean MRI.”

But the cognitive issues Krummi yet experiences, including aphasia, are a reminder of her darkest days and the horrible feeling of “chemo fog,” which she describes as “the worst hangover, with the flu on top of that, with food poisoning on top of that.”

Krummi is now on estrogen suppressors to help ward off cancer. They “eat at bone cartilage,” requiring infusions a few time a year “to help with bone density.” She has labs drawn frequently and sees her oncology team at the University of Minnesota Medical Center twice a year.

And she knows that cancer is not kind. It could return.

“Don’t take anything for granted,” is Krummi’s new life motto. “The little things don’t bother me as much anymore,” she said.

Her family now collects memories, “rather than junk.” Each Christmas, “we do something as a family.” A few years ago it was attending a Minnesota Vikings game; last year, a Kelly Clarkson concert. This year, the Krummis will take an ice fishing trip to Lake of the Woods.

“I’m looking forward” to the Sand Lake Shuffle, Krummi added. “I’m happy to be able to help so many people.”

Cancer does not play favorites, she said.

“You think it can’t happen to you, but, yeah, it does,” Krummi said. “Cancer touches everybody.”

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